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10 online retailers going from clicks to bricks

From clicks to bricks

A guest attends the opening of Athleta's NYC Flagship Store, November 19, 2013 in New York City.
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It's traditional retail lore—a company opens a store, expands its footprint to the Web and then works to integrate its online and in-store sales.

But for some retailers, the opposite approach is more enticing.

Despite the shift toward online shopping, a number of brands have turned the tables, first developing their virtual presence, and later moving into the physical space.

Amazon added its name to the fray on Thursday, when reports surfaced that the online pure-play will open a physical location in Manhattan. Details as to the exact function of the location, specifically whether it would be used as a distribution center or a store, were unclear. An Amazon spokeswoman said the company has made no announcements about a location in Manhattan.

"The focus is on e-commerce because that's a growing segment, but it doesn't mean that traditional physical bricks-and-mortar stores are going away anytime soon," said Giovanni DeMeo, vice president of global marketing and analytics for Interactions Marketing.

Instead, retailers are finding a way to marry the two concepts, leading many pure-play online retailers to experiment with—and often times grow—their offline presence.

General Growth Properties' CEO Sandeep Mathrani said that although online is the incubator, many brands have realized that to build volume and scale, they need to have multiple channels of distribution.

"They recognize the fact that malls bring them opportunity to expose their brands," said Alan Barocas, General Growth Properties' executive vice president of leasing.

Click through to see a list of retailers who have bucked the trend, and gone from clicks to bricks.

—By CNBC's Krystina Gustafson
Posted 11 April 2014

UPDATE: This story was updated 10 Oct. 2014

Athleta

Source: Athleta | Facebook

The athleticwear brand launched e-commerce operations in 1999, but physical stores didn't follow until more than 10 years later.

After Gap acquired Athleta in 2008, the retailer brought the brand to the physical space in 2011, planting its first flag in San Francisco. The chain currently has about 80 stores, and said on its most recent earnings call that it will get to 100 locations this year.

Piperlime

Piperlime store in New York City.
Source: Piperlime | Facebook

After launching a pop-up shop in New York City's SoHo neighborhood in 2010, the Gap-owned store opened the doors to a permanent location a few blocks away in 2012. In contrast to Gap's other stores, Piperlime sells a roster of third-party brands, from Diane von Furstenberg to French Connection.

"Shoppers can expect to have an incredible, consistent experience at Piperlime in whatever channel she chooses, but at this time, from a store perspective, the focus is on the one SoHo store location," a spokesperson said.

BaubleBar

Source: BaubleBar | Facebook

Although fashion jewelry label BaubleBar started out online, co-founder Amy Jain said she and co-founder Daniella Yacobovsky set their sights on bricks and mortar from day one.

"We've always believed that an offline presence was key to building a brand," Jain said. "Men and women touch and feel our product and they immediately understand what BaubleBar is about."

After operating a three-month pop-up store in New York City last summer, the brand launched an exclusive collection with Anthropologie in December, and is also sold at Nordstrom.

The basket size and order size at bricks-and-mortar stores is about three times what it is online, Jain said.

Rent the Runway

Rent The Runway store in New York.
Source: Rent The Runway | Facebook

The online rental company, which has become synonymous with lending women designer dresses for special occasions, opened its first freestanding store in New York City's Flatiron district in September.

Co-founder Jennifer Fleiss said the location has proven to be a positive step forward in converting browsers into buyers, as it eased shoppers' fears that an item wouldn't fit or show up on time. At the store, visitors are able to reserve rentals for future events, or take items with them that day. The location also offers tailoring services.

Rent the Runway has two other locations: one in Las Vegas and the other at its SoHo headquarters.

Boston Proper

Source: Boston Proper | Facebook

After acquiring the online and catalog business in 2011, Chico's decided to bring Boston Proper to the physical space. After initially opening four stores in Florida, the company now has 13 physical locations. Stores in Atlanta and Miami are coming soon.

Bonobos

Source: Bonobos

After five years as an online-only retailer, Bonobos expanded into bricks and mortar in 2012, opening stores in 20 Nordstrom locations. The brand has since expanded its presence at Nordstrom, and is available at a handful of Belk stores. It operates 10 of its own shops, called the Bonobos Guideshop.

"We believe the future is digital, but that great in-person experiences aren't going away," Bonobos co-founder and CEO Andy Dunn said.

Warby Parker

Source: Warby Parker | Facebook

After kicking off as an online-only retailer in 2010, the fashion-forward eyewear brand now operates eight independent stores and eight "showrooms" across the U.S. Warby Parker's "showrooms" are operated within boutiques in cities such as Miami and Chicago, while the brand has standalone locations in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston.

"We view the future of retail as a truly blended approach. Customers are shopping online [including on their phones] more than ever, but people still crave in-person experiences and interactions," said co-founder Neil Blumenthal. "Having physical stores is another way we can bring customers into the world of Warby Parker—both existing customers and people who happen to walk past the store without having encountered us before."

Co-founder Dave Gilboa said the company is exploring options for stores in other cities.

Birchbox

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A believer that good things come in small packages, the monthly sample delivery brand opened a physical store in New York City's SoHo earlier this year. The permanent store follows a string of pop-up shops in New York.

Although co-founder and co-CEO Katia Beauchamp said she never expected the brand to open bricks-and-mortar locations, it became a logical step in the brand's evolution.

"Never lose sight of who you work for, which is the customer," she said.

JustFab

The JustFab.com Los Angeles flagship store at Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California.
Getty Images

The members-only footwear site, which gives shoppers recommendations based on stylists' picks, launched its first physical store in September, in Glendale, California.

Kimora Lee Simmons, formerly married to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, is the brand's president and creative director.

Frank & Oak

Source: Frank & Oak | Facebook

In November, the Canadian menswear retailer opened its first location in Montreal. While at the store, shoppers have the opportunity to meet with style advisors—and even get a haircut.